Choose plants that purify the indoor air
By choosing plants that purify the indoor air in homes and offices, you're helping to clear the indoor environment of pollutants, thereby reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that escape from your home into the outside air.
How to use purifying plants
- Place two to three plants in each room of your house, or about 15 plants for every 1500 square feet. Spice it up and use a variety of air-cleaning plants.
- Plants don’t always have to live right beside windows. Since many originated in the shade of tropical forests, most can do well in all corners of the house.
- Take care of your plants and they’ll take care of you. A lot of the air cleaning occurs from the roots of the plant, so keep the soil or root area clear. And be sure to avoid overwatering, which can cause mold growth, resulting in decreased indoor air quality.
Find it! Houseplants and houseplant resources
How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office by B.C. Wolverton (Penguin Paperbacks)
A book that gives more options for purifying houseplants and other ideas.
Top ten housecleaning plants
All houseplants improve the quality of indoor air, since they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. But some are particularly effective at purifying indoor air because they absorb pollutants. Most of these originated in the tropics, where they grow beneath dense canopies in low light so they're very efficient at processing the gases necessary for photosynthesis. Because of this, they have great ability to absorb all gases. In addition, most of these are fairly easy to grow and resist insects, as well.
- Lady palm
- Spider plant
- Dwarf date palm
- Bamboo palm
- Sword fern
- Areca palm
- Blue daisy
- American rubber plant
- Boston fern
- Blue-eyed daisy
Important warning: A number of houseplants are toxic for young children and pets. Check to make sure that a houseplant is safe before you bring it into your home. All the plants listed above have been screened by Saferhouses.co.uk, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and poison control centers to determine that they are safe for small children as well as cats and dogs. You may want to additionally check in with your local poison control center, which is listed at the front of your phone book. Peace lily, Janet Craig dracaena, English ivy, and chrysanthemums, among others, are all popular plants for cleaning indoor air that are all also dangerous for small children and animals. These plants can be great for those without either, but should not be owned by those with them.
Choosing plants that purify the indoor air helps you go green because...
- Aside from the fact that houseplants literally bring green into your home, they work to detoxify the indoor environment from outgassing of chemicals and VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
- Plants release oxygen and humidity into the air, which is healthy and makes the indoor air more like natural outdoor air.
- By making the indoor air as pure as possible, you reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that escape from your home into the outside air.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cites indoor air pollution as one of the top five public health threats in America due to artificial materials like synthetic fibers and plastic, which emit harmful formaldehyde, trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene, and other VOCs.
Placing plants in rooms has been found to purify indoor air. In addition to getting rid of noxious gases and reducing carbon dioxide, plants also produce oxygen and balance the indoor humidity, resulting in air that is more like natural outdoor air.
In the 1970s, a US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) study found that certain plants help with specific chemicals—spider plants and golden pothos remove carbon monoxide and formaldehyde and peace lilies are particularly good at eliminating benzene and TCE. The book How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office by B. C. Wolverton offers comprehensive guidance on plant choices.
Although Dr. Wolverton’s work strongly suggests that indoor plants can reduce cases of poor indoor air quality and Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), the EPA maintains that they cannot remove significant enough quantities of common pollutants in homes and offices to make a noticeable difference. EPA officials acknowledge that plants remove carbon dioxide and that they can also reduce pollutants to a certain level, but insist that until further, real-life studies have been done, conclusions about plants’ abilities to control indoor air pollutants cannot be made.
- outgassing: The slow release of a gas that was trapped or absorbed in material. Outgassing has lately been considered a possible cause of SBS.
- Sick Building Syndrome (SBS): Alternately referred to as Tight Building Syndrome (TBS), Building-Related Illness (BRI), and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), SBS occurs when a building’s occupants exhibit illnesses such as dry, irritated eyes, nose, throat, and skin; fatigue; shortness of breath, coughing, and sneezing; dizziness and nausea; as well as headache and sinus congestion.
- volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Elements that significantly vaporize and enter the atmosphere. VOCs are typically found indoors in materials like paint and plastics. VOCs can be harmful, contributing in some cases SBS.
- The Green Guide - Leafing the Air Clean: Article on helping to purify the air with houseplants at a downtown New York high school after 9-11.
- Lowe’s - Living Air Cleaners: Describes which plants purify which chemicals.
- Kentucky Division for Air Quality - Indoor Air Quality
- The Green Guide - Leafing the Air Clean
- Care2 Healthy & Green Living - Top Ten Houseplants for Cleaner Air
- GreenHomeGuide - Choose the Right Air Cleaner for Your Baby’s Nursery
- Cancer Prevention Coalition - Indoor Air Pollution: Cleaning Up Cleaning Habits
- AllBusiness - Annual Ecological Engineering Conference to Reveal Environmental Value of Interior Plants
- US Environmental Protection Agency - A Guide to Indoor Air Quality: Air Cleaners
- US Environmental Protection Agency - Indoor Air Pollution: Can plants control indoor air pollution?
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety - Indoor Air Quality: What symptoms are often linked to poor indoor air quality?